Is it me or is this one of the weirder HK films
in quite a while? I also wasn’t sure if this was a really bad film or not.
Logically it had to be and yet at times it was surprisingly effective and
in the end it is like waking up from a fitful dream that has left you with
a sense of longing but you can’t remember why. Part of this confusion is
simply the style of the film – on the surface it has all the characteristics
of a glistening teen idol effort wrapped in mounds of sugary sweet tooth
decaying taffy – but underneath the pretty gloss was a bizarre plot with
a real sense of sadness and loss. Director Dante Lam has previously taken
genres such as the buddy cop film (Beast Cops) and triads (Jiang Hu) and
turned them a bit on their heads and I wonder whether he is doing something
similar here. Get all the teenage lovey dovey couples into the theater
with promises of a goopy romance and bring on two young beautiful stars
who will inevitably have to fall in love - and then hit the audience in
the face with death – the suddenness of it – the sadness of it – the holes
it creates in people’s lives and hearts – the finality of it – and yet
keep it sugar coated till the very end.
Of course I am not really sure what genre Lam
might be trying to fool with here. The plot feels like two very distinct
scripts that are very awkwardly melded into one story – sort of like Ghost
meets Strictly Ballroom (or to use HK films – perhaps Chinese Ghost Story
meets Dance of a Dream) but more perverse. The entire story is ludicrous
beyond belief and yet no one in the film seems to realize this – everyone
acts as if nothing is much out of the ordinary – this is just a sweet love
story – and that’s what makes it all so perverse. Why perverse - because
one of them is dead for nearly the entire film.
Appearing on the Hong Kong film scene only this
year (2002), 23-year-old Karena Lam (a.k.a. Karena Lin) is on a major roll
and has been extremely impressive in her first three outings. Already the
subject of a number of Chinese Web sites, Canadian born Karena managed
to get the leading female role in all three of these high profile films
and has starred opposite Jacky Cheung in July Rhapsody as a Lolita like
teenager out to seduce her teacher, with Leslie Cheung in Inner Senses
as a seemingly disturbed young woman who thinks she sees ghosts and here
plays against someone much more in her age bracket, Nicholas Tse, and now
she is a ghost. A very nice one. It is largely her sweet performance that
takes this film out of the realm of total absurdity to one of having some
Karena’s character Jane Chan is an aspiring dancer
with a community group and one day she keeps bumping into Nicholas Tse
- a deaf messenger – on the subway, on the street and in her workplace.
Ah, fate clearly has its finger pointed at this couple you think – until
about 15 minutes into the film Karena is run over by a car and killed.
Like dead. Kaput. Corpus Delicti. What sort of love story is this? Nicholas
never even got her name. They never spoke. But because he was thinking
of her and she was thinking of him when she died – he is able to communicate
with and see her ghost that soon appears by his side. She needs a place
to hide. The Underworld Cops are looking for her. She wants to stay among
the living for a week. Why? Because that’s when the final dance competition
is going to take place! She is dead and she’s worried about the dance competition.
Otherwise she doesn’t seem all that concerned about being deceased and
is actually pretty chipper most of the time. Nothing worse of course than
a glum ghost for company.
Now if a ghost came up to you and asked to stay
at your place for a week and that these Darth Vader like creatures on horses
were coming for her, you might hesitate - but not Nicholas – sure
no problem – my roommate (Eason Chan) is such an idiot he will never notice
that I am talking to a ghost – come on over – make tiramisu – suck on lollypops
– ride the merry go round – go to jazz clubs – see your funeral - fall
in love. Why is it that female ghosts make the best lovers in Hong Kong
films? Of course a ghost can’t perform in a dance competition – so she
asks Nicholas if she can enter him and have him dance – sure no problem
– I always wondered what it would feel like to have a ghost inside me and
be able to tap dance. It gets sillier – much sillier – but pretends so
hard not to be - and yet there is that underlying real sense of loss that
clings to the film like dripping maple syrup.
Much of this is due to the pain that her death
causes to the living – to her parents, to her little sister, to her good
friend and dance partner, Candy Lo, and finally to Nicholas Tse who has
come to love her so much that he is willing to follow her into the underworld
- (a chalet in France with a big fire place!?). It hurts these people.
A lot. So somehow this film manages to navigate around the clumsy storytelling
and the idol imaging and create a few real emotions. It’s still a very
odd film though and probably not a very good one, but the production values
are excellent, the actors are appealing (with the exception of a very annoying
over the top Eason) and you can learn how to make tiramisu.
My rating for this film: 6.0